Check out some of the used Cayin integrateds. great sound and build quality at very reasonable prices.
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Thanks for the advice. To the person who asked whether it was the EL34 amp, yes it was, and the base model, not the SE. FYI, if you heard it trying to drive large floorstanders with multiple drivers, it wouldn't surprise me if you were disappointed, despite what VAC said about it being able to drive almost any speaker. However, within in the context I used it, in a small to moderate room with efficient 2-way bookshelf speakers, and a high quality vinyl setup, it could be startlingly realistic, dynamic and uncolored.
BTW, I heard the PHI integrated once with large Tannoys, and even though it used KT88s, I thought the sound was voiced quite similar, though obviously the system had a greater frequency range.
Would you consider something like a completely newly built version of the Dynaco ST70 built by Bob Latino or Will Vincent? I think they sell for $845 or so with EL34s and are said to be a significant improvement in the bass compared with the original with a classic tube midrange. While the same basic design, they are upgraded with modern parts and improved specs on the parts. Seems well built for the money and does provide that EL34 magic in the midrange.
I had Aronov 960 integrated, and a while I was also thinking to upgrade to VAC Avatar. The Avatar has, at least as I heard, a more refined, silkier and more audiophile sound. Aronov, had a more robust sound. Likely, the Avatar is nicer amp for small ensemble classical music and similar ones. But for the kind of music you like you may better off with Aronov, which you could have less than 1000 usd.
I actually had the Aronov before the VAC. Different speakers and other components, so hard to fully evaluate. My brother prefered the Aronov, but I thought the VAC was all-round better. The Aronov seemed to me to have deeper bass, but a little too warm-sounding for me. I thought the VAC LF response was more accurate and detailed, and the mids, highs and overall tone and integrated sound clearly better. Still, if I saw a used Aronov for under $1000, I would snap it up. Budget is sub-1000. Thanks.